1985-12 December 1985 Newsletter

December 1985 Newsletter

Wines evaluated last month: 245 Rejected: 195 Approved: 50 Selected: 2


I welcome a large group of new members this Holiday Season. Because you were not on board last December, a point of information is in order.

Traditionally, for 14 years now, the club selections for December have been festive wines. Each year I have selected a sparkling wine and a fortified wine to feature for the Holidays. You are thus ensured of having a bottle available for New Years eve. And... for a change of pace, a fortified wine to serve for a Holiday toast.

The wines are alternated each year. This year it is the turn to have a California sparkling and an import fortified. Finding selections for December is becoming difficult. Our budget does not go very far in these categories! Both suppliers made special club concessions to meet our mark.

May this Holiday Season find you and yours in the best of health and spirits.

==================================== =


= Armagan Brut. d'Agostny pg.2 =
= No. 28. Sherry.Duff Grdn pg.3 =
= The Ritual of the Cork pg.4 =
= On Evaluating Wine pg.5 =
= WOMC Cellar Notes pg.5 =
= Adventures in Eating by R pg.6 =
= Wine order form pg.7 =
= Gift order form pg.8 =

Membership in the Wine of the Month Club is open to anyone with an interest in and an appreciation for fine wines...and excellent wine values. Membership is FREE. For info, write: The Cellarmaster Wine of the Month Club, P.O. Box 217, Palos Verde, CA 90274. (213) 318-6666


I consider this sparkling wine an achievement. It is real ly amazing that it can be produced by the method that is used, and be as good as it is, for the price.

You see... I am talking about a Charmat process sparkling wine. A bulk process, if you please... Let's review...

The premier sparkling wines are made by the method used in the homeland of sparkling wine - the Champagne region of France. The process is called "Methode Champenoise", where the secondary fermentation to produce the effervescence and the nutty yeast flavor occurs in the same bottle you purchase the wine in. In California we sometimes identify these by labeling the bottle: "Fermented in this bottle". The good ones are priced up there. Worth it... but beyond the budget of this program.

The next type, is the "fermented in the bottle" varieties. The secondary fermentation is done in each bottle and the contents are emptied into a large container. The yeast cells are filtered off and the sparkling wine rebottled. This is sometimes called the "transfer method".

The third process is the Charmat process, also called the bulk process. Ironically this process was invented in France by Eugene Charmat around 1907. The secondary fermentation occurs in large sealed tanks. The finished product is transferred to bottles, corked and wired. Age on yeast is often sacrificed, and the finer nuances of flavor are often missing. Furthermore, "bulk wine grapes" are commonly used with this process.

For a Charmat process California Champagne, Armagan Brut is the best I have seen. Armagan Ozdiker, proprietor of d'Agostini Winery designed it that way. It is head and shoulders above the flock of other Charmat process products because:

-Secondary fermentation in small glass lined tanks.
-Aged up to 11 months on the yeast in these tanks.
-More yeast is used.
-Bottles chilled to 26° F. before bottling.
-6 to 18 months bottle aged.
-Johannisberg Riesling, Dry Chenin Blanc, and Chardonnay blend.
-Dosage is brandy based.

Armagan Ozdiker purchased the D'Agostini Winery in 1983 from the Agostinis, who had operated it since 1911. They had purchased the winery and vineyards from Adam Uhlinger who started the operation in 1856. It is a State Historical Landmark on Shenandoah Road, eight miles northeast of Plymouth, CA. A pleasant tasting room awaits you if you are ever in the vicinity. Say hello to Armagan and tell him I sent you!

Our wine is faint golden yellow. It has a refreshing yeast aroma, with the fruitiness showing behind the yeast. The taste is fruity, with a nutty yeast overtone. Pleasant lasting finish. Well balanced, with a hint of sweetness. Fine bubbles in the glass. Serve well iced for any celebration with champagne flake cookies, fruit cream cheese or chutney canapes. Try cream cheese and jalapeno jelly. (not the whipped cream cheese).

Cellaring Notes: Drink now.

#1285A Regular Price: $6.50/750ml. Special Member Price: $5.50/750ml. Member Reorder Price : 24.62%discount $4.90/ea. $58.80/case.


A glass of sherry is a welcome change from time to time. It offers such a broad spectrum of taste sensations and pleasures. Enjoying sherry is an acquired taste, no doubt about it. But... I think it is well worth working on acquiring that taste!

What is sherry?

-Genuine sherry is the wine produced in a small region in southern Spain, slightly north of Cadiz, near Gibralter. The important towns are Jerez de la Frontera, Puerto de Santa Maria, and Sanlucar de Barrameda. Many other countries, including the USA make sherrylike wines, and some rather good ones… at that. To the chagrin of the Spanish wine authorities, these imitations are also labeled sherry.

-It is a fortified wine. This means that additional alcohol has been added in the form of a brandy, to raise the alcohol percentage to 2096 in the final product.

-It is a blended wine. In fact the art of blending sherries is considered by some, as the most skillful of the blending arts. It is not a blending of different grape varieties. It is the blending of different batches of wine that have ended up tasting different after fermentation.

-It is an oxidized wine! This is not a negative. By design, and controlled, the underlying flavor of sherry is an oxidized flavor that is pleasant. A wonderfully nutty, caramelly taste that is unique.

-It is a multifaceted wine as far as sweetness and body is concerned. Sherry is made in all degrees of dryness and sweetness. Each sherry house has its own range of wines and styles.

-It is wine that has the word "solera" as its password. Sherry is aged before blending in a series of oak barrels (curiously, American oak, these days.) that are stored, row upon row, in "bodegas" that have been described to "resemble cathedrals in size and loftiness". Wine of like character are stored in the same solera. Younger wine is introduced in the top barrels, older wine drawn from the bottom barrels, and a continuous transfer of wine from younger to older barrels goes on all the time.

The Duff Gordon sherries are world famous. Their bodega was founded in 1772, and is in Puerto de Santa Maria. (By the way, do not miss a meal at El Fogon, if you are ever in that town. It is operated by the well known cookbook author Lalo Grosso de MacPherson.) Their "No.28" blend fascinated me when I was there. It is an "oloroso" type. (vs. a "fino" type, or an "amontillado' type.) This blend was named No. 28 to honor the 28 years that Cosmo Duff Gordon was at the helm of their firm.

This sherry is amber brownish in color. A reserved bouquet. The taste is multi-leveled. Starts with a full body and lush fruit, then leads one into a nutty middle as it changes lanes, then finishes with a curious dryness despite its richness. Serve at room temperature with aged cheddar cheese after a meal.

Cellaring Notes: Not for ageing.

#1285B Regular Price: $11.25/750ml. Special Member Price: $9.50/750ml. Member Reorder Price: 24.44% discount $8.50ea. $102.00/case.


What are you supposed to do with that cork when the waiter presents you with it after he has extracted it from the bottle you ordered at a restaurant?

Well… if you collect corks, put it in your pocket and take it home! They make a good background for a corkboard bulletin board. Maybe someday I will finish mine!

But before you do that, here are some of the reasons for this showy ritual that sommeliers, waiters, and waitresses perform.

Just the fact that the bottle was opened in front of you, including cutting of the capsule and extracting the cork, proves that the bottle was an original bottle. Not one that was filled in the back room, and brought out uncorked. Rare instance of probable deception, but possible. In the last 25 years this has happened to me twice. Once in a small San Pedro restaurant, and once in Madrid. Always insist your wine be uncorked at your table.

Look at the cork. Does it look sound. Cork comes from a tree, and is a natural product. Any holes that seem to go through? Bottle variation in a good wine could be due to defective cork.

Squeeze the cork. Has the cork kept its resiliency? A dried out cork could have allowed air to seep into the bottle and oxidized the wine. Bear this in mind when you taste the wine.

Sniff the cork. Just for fun. You are expected to do this by the server! The idea is that you might detect any off odors in the wine. You will get a better chance to do this when you taste the sample the server will pour you. Since everybody is watching you, sniff it anyway! Congratulations... you just joined the Order of Cork Sniffers, of which I am a card carrying member. Cork bouquet is a good announcement of the wine!

Observe the wine contact end of the cork. Does it have crystals deposited on it. They are not a defect. They will form on the cork or loose at the bottom of the bottle due to a supersaturation of the wine with fruit acids from the grape juice. They are usually tartrate crystals. A sign of good extractive in the wine.

Notice any pigmentation of the wine contact end of the cork, from the wine color. I really do not know what useful story that can tell you!?! But look intelligent while inspecting it, and it will seem profound anyway!

If the cork has some dirt, cellar dust, or mold at the top, your server has not done a good job at uncorking the bottle. The cork should be wiped clean at the top before extracting.

Look for any imprints on the cork, and give an understanding nod. Usually it has the winery or chateau or domaine name and logo. Others have generic statements like "estate bottled". Some will have the vintage also imprinted. Make sure your cork coincides with the label in this case. One winery in California was imprinting fortune cookie messages on their corks! Great idea. A collection of utterances by the gods Bacchus and Dionysus would make great table conversation starters.

If for nothing else, the corks can be useful to count the number of bottles your party consumed. Just line them up and compare them with the number on the bill! You can never be sure, because waiters have the habit of taking the empties way!

In all frivolity, do not let the members of the Order of Cork Sniffers intimidate you. It's not the cork that counts, it's the wine. Enjoy the wine not the ritual!

©Paul Kalemkiarian


Just in case you want to do some serious wine evaluations and comparisons, I thought I would reproduce for you one of the official methods used. It is based on a scale of 20. The elements to look for are listed along with the score for each element. Bear in mind, you must compare like wines... same varietals, same generics, same regionals.

Organoleptic Evaluation Scoring Guide for Wine as Used by California State Fair Wine-Judging Panels

1. Appearance

1—Slightly low or high
2—Normal, well balanced

6. Sweetness

0—Too low or too high

2. Color

0—Distinctly off

7. Body

1—Slightly off
0—Too low or too high

3. Aroma and Bouquet

8. Flavor

2—Distinct but not varietal
0—Distinctly abnormal
3—Varietal 1—Slightly abnormal
(Subtract 1 or 2 for off-odors, 2—Normal
add 1 for bouquet)

9. Bitterness

4. Vinegary (Acescence)

0—Distinctly high
1—Slightly high

10. General Quality

5. Total Acidity

0—Distinctly low or high


17-20 Outstanding quality, fine wines
13-16 Sound commercial wines
9-12 Commercial with noticeable defect
6-8 Common, poor
1-6 Unsatisfactory


A report on how previous Wine of The Month Club selections are faring with ageing. Obtained from actual tastings of wines aged under cellar conditions and/or vintner, importer, or wholesaler surveys

Dec 1981. R. Korbel Rose, Fading. Use up. W. Cream Sherry, Hartley Gibson.No change.Does not improve.

Dec 1982. R. Brut De Noir, Codorniu. '79. Fading. Use up. W. Cabernet Sauvignon Port. Beringer. Remarkable .Keep.

Dec 1983. R. Fino Sherry, Savory and James. No Change. Will not improve. W. Champagne Brut, Hans Kornell. Some complexity.Use up.

Dec 1984. R. Llords & Elwood Port, No change. W. Gratien Brut, Some complexity. Use up in 86.

Adventures in Eating

By Rosemarie

"Twas the Night Before Christmas"... What a classic first liner in literature. Almost as good as "Once upon a Time."

The Night Before Christmas is not far off. My mind drifts towards preparing a simple yet satisfying repast. As much to declare "time off" from my tired, aching body, as for declaring homage to my stomach. It rarely lets me down during the holidays in its capacity to dissipate an unlikely mixture of foodstuffs.

Our traditional "Night Before Christmas" is corned beef and cabbage. Easy to prepare and serve all night long. This year, it will be different. The shift will be to one of M.F.K. Fishers's favorite dishes - Oyster Soup. A deserving herald to Christmas.

J.Carroll, from "Alice in Wonderland" said it with melody... The Walrus and the Carpenter walked on a mile or so. And then they rested on a rock, conveniently low; and all the little Oysters stood and waited in a row. "A loaf of bread", the Walrus said," Is what we chiefly need - pepper and vinegar besides, are very good indeed - Now if you're ready, Oysters dear, we can begin to feed."


1 quart oysters
3 cups milk, heated
1 cup cream (whipping), heated
4 T butter
2 T flour
1½ t salt
¼ t pepper
1 T finely grated onion
1 T finely chopped celery
Chopped parsley, garni, optional

Melt 1 T butter in saucepan and saute onion and celery until soft. Set aside. Melt the remaining 3 T butter and stir in the flour and blend well. Slowly add the heated milk, then the cream and seasonings, stirring, and then the sauteed onions and celery. Bring the oysters to a boil in their own liquor. Cook about five minutes or until the edges curl. (If cooked too long, the oysters get tough.) Strain. You may rinse with hot water at this point if you like a less oyster flavor. Add oysters to the milk stock, heat about 5 minutes without boiling. Serve immediately. Garnish with parsley, and coarsely ground red pepper. Serves 4 as a main dish. Hot French bread, butter, and belgian endive salad would do very well.

Merry Eating!

For free membership information write or call Wine of the Month Club® Adventures in Wine Since 1972 by The Cellarmaster P.O. Box 217, Palos Verde Estates, CA 90274 (213) 318-6666

Order Form

Please send me the following:

1285A 24.62% discount Armagan, Brut. Regular Price: $6.50 $ 58.80/case $ 4.90/each
1185A 23.53% discount Chardonnay,'82.Frmrk Abbey Regular Price: $12.75 $117.00/case $ 9.75/each
1085A 23.08% discount Syrah,'81.McDowell Vlly.Vin. Regular Price: $9.75 $ 90.00/case $ 7.50/each
1285B 24.44% discount No.28 Sherry, Duff Gordon Regular Price: $11.25 $102.00/case $ 8.50/each
1185B 20.00% discount Cotes du Ventoux,'83Dm.St.Svr. Regular Price: $3.00 $ 28.80/case $ 2.40/each
1085B 24.21% discount Brigadier Miranda,'82. Regular Price: $4.75 $ 43.20/case $ 3.60/each

MAIL TO: Wine of the Month Club, P.O. Box 217, Palos Verde Estates, CA 90274 SHIPPING CHARGES: 2 bottles $2.50; 6 bottles $5.00; 12 bottles $7.50 □ Check enclosed for $_____ for the total. □ Charge my: □ Visa □ MasterCard □ American Express ____________________________________________________ Card # Expiration Date _______________________________________________________________________________ Name (Print) Signature _______________________________________________ We are unable to ship out of California due to Alcoholic Address Beverage laws. Recipients must be 21 or older. _______________________________________________________________________________ City State Zip -_______________________________________________________________________________ Phone (Home) (office) (See reverse side to order wine gifts)

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2 BOTTLES: the 2 current club selections $17*
6 BOTTLES: assortment of recent selections $47*
12 BOTTLES: (1 case): assortment of recent selections $92*
4 MONTHS subscription: 2 bottles (the Club Selec- tions) a month for 4 months (or every $62*
quarter for 1 year - specify gift #4Q) (8 bottles total). 6 MONTHS subscription: 2 bottles (the Club Selec- tions) a month for 6 months (or every $92*
other month for 1 year - specify gift #5B) (12 bottles total). 1 YEAR (24 bottles total) subscription: 2 bottles every month for the next 12 months $182*